Oracle Plugs 51 Java Vulnerabilities

Oracle's October Critical Patch Update tackles 127 new fixes in total across multiple software applications.

Oracle is out with one of the largest patch updates in the company's history. The Oracle October Critical Patch Update (CPU) released on Oct. 15 deals with a staggering 127 security vulnerabilities, including 51 that are specific to Java.

The Oracle CPU is a quarterly update that patches Oracle's core software applications, including its database, Fusion middleware, WebLogic server and Solaris. With the October CPU, Oracle now for the first time ever is also including Java fixes into the CPU mix.

The Java updates in the CPU are mostly critical issues that need to be addressed by users immediately. Eric Maurice, manager for Oracle's global technology business unit, blogged that 50 of the Java vulnerabilities fixed in this Critical Patch Update are remotely exploitable without authentication.

"The maximum CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) Base Score for these Java vulnerabilities is 10.0, which denotes a complete takeover of the targeted system (down to the operating system) in instances where Java executes with administrative privileges (i.e. system privileges)," Maurice blogged.

Six of the Java vulnerabilities fixed in the October CPU were discovered by Hewlett-Packard's Security Research team. Brian Gorenc, manager of vulnerability research for the Zero Day Initiative at HP Security Research, explained to eWEEK that all of the vulnerabilities his group reported allow attackers to bypass applicable sandboxes and execute attacker-controlled code.

Gorenc recommends that users update Java as soon as possible.

"Remember, end users are not the only people analyzing the patches released yesterday," Gorenc said. "Attackers have likely begun reverse-engineering the patches and writing proof-of-concepts to trigger the corrected vulnerabilities."

51 Java Flaws

Having 51 flaws in a patch update might seem like a high number, but when it comes to Java, the unfortunate reality is that it's not. Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of security vendor Qualys, told eWEEK that he's not surprised by the high volume of Java flaws fixed in the October CPU.

"Java updates have been big for the last year addressing 30-50 vulnerabilities, when before they were in the 10-20 range," Kandek said. "I think it reflects that both attackers and security researchers have focused much of their attention on the product."

While Java is getting 51 fixes, Oracle's namesake database is only receiving two fixes in the October CPU. Oracle's Fusion middleware is not as lucky—receiving 17 security fixes, 12 of which patch vulnerabilities that are remotely exploitable without authentication. The Oracle and Sun Systems Products Suite is being updated with 12 patches, with five of the issues being vulnerabilities that are remotely exploitable without authentication.

The size of the overall Oracle October CPU is cause for concern for some security experts. Kandek noted that he's not certain if having the Java patches as part of the regular Oracle CPU is a good thing.

"Normally I would say yes, because it is good to have as much predictability as possible, but on the other hand, the bigger the CPU becomes, the more likely IT admins will feel overwhelmed," Kandek said. "It is formally the right thing to do; let's see how it will work out workload-wise for IT."

Tyler Reguly, technical manager of security research and development for Tripwire, is somewhat less optimistic.

"This quarter's October CPU serves as another reminder that Oracle needs to consider a monthly release cycle," Reguly said. "They're patching 127 issues, 51 of which apply to Java. At this point, users everywhere should be outraged that Oracle feels a quarterly patch cycle is sufficient to keep them safe."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.